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Redskins Depth Chart: Injuries continue to plague elite talent on offensive line, but will it stop?

Redskins Depth Chart: Injuries continue to plague elite talent on offensive line, but will it stop?

Overall, the Redskins lack blue-chip players, evidenced by the more than two decades since the team last landed an NFL All-Pro selection. 

One area where Washington does have elite talent, and could break their All-Pro drought, would be on the offensive line. 

That conversation starts with left tackle Trent Williams. Unquestionably the most athletic blindside protector in the league, Williams has made seven straight Pro Bowls and combines strength, grace and precise footwork to play one of football’s most important positions at a very high level. 

Beyond Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff mauls his opponents and has much more speed and agility than he gets credit. Redskins coach Jay Gruden labeled Scherff the best pulling guard in the NFL, and that case is easy to make. 

Without getting to the other three offensive line spots- with center manned dutifully by Chase Roullier and right tackle by Morgan Moses - Williams and Scherff are the headliners. 

There are other headlines though, and they aren’t the positive kind. 

The Redskins offensive line has sustained an outrageous amount of injuries the last two seasons. No team in the league has been forced to use more guard combinations, and both Williams and Scherff have missed significant time. 

Roullier was the only offensive player to take every snap last season, and while Moses gutted through a number of ailments, he was penalized more than any other tackle in the league. 

And there’s the left guard situation.

Washington hasn’t truly addressed that spot in years, instead trotting out Shawn Lauvao before his inevitable injury in the first half of the season. Last month, the Redskins finally attempted to get a handle on the spot by drafting Indiana guard Wes Martin in the fourth round and Alabama center/guard Ross Pierschbacher in the fifth. 

Inside the building, Redskins officials hope Martin can start at left guard right away. He’s very strong for a rookie and should be a capable run blocker. His pass blocking will be something to watch. 

The team also signed Ereck Flowers this offseason. A first-round pick of the Giants in 2015, Flowers was awful in New York and was cut midway through last season. Jacksonville picked him up and he played decent with the Jaguars to finish the year. 

There was talk that Flowers could push for the left guard spot, and he might. But he also might serve as depth at tackle, especially considering the Redskins lost Ty Nsekhe to the Bills in free agency. 

For parts of three seasons, Nsekhe has been a valuable backup in Washington, filling in for both Williams and Moses and occasionally at the guard spot. With Nsekhe gone, second-year pro Geron Christian will need to show much more than he did as a rookie, but his development will be hampered as he returns from a major knee injury suffered last year. This offseason, the team also agreed to terms with Tony Bergstrom, a depth player with some versatility, who also dealt with his own injury struggles.

The real ceiling of the Redskins offensive line will be determined by what players can stay healthy. That just hasn’t happened in Washington for the last two seasons, and in turn, it has submarined promising seasons. 

Fix the injuries, and offensively, the product should be significantly better; run the ball more effectively, use play action more effectively, throw the ball more effectively. 

As the reality of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins starting for the Redskins this fall becomes more apparent, it should also become more obvious how important a healthy offensive line will be to his success. And it’s just too early to know if that will be the case. 

When everyone is healthy, the ‘Skins have a top five offensive line in the NFL. 

But when will everyone be healthy? The last few years that doesn’t last long.

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Ron Rivera explains that working with Terry McLaurin has been a 'treat' thus far

Ron Rivera explains that working with Terry McLaurin has been a 'treat' thus far

Ron Rivera took over as Redskins head coach in early January, tasked with the challenge of turning around a football team that has struggled plenty as of late.

After assembling his staff, one of the first things the new head coach did was have a meeting with them to identify which players on the roster would be a part of the team's "core" as they build for the future. As Rivera explained during an interview with the Redskins Talk podcast during Super Bowl week, it didn't take the head coach long to realize wide receiver Terry McLaurin completely fits the his vision for the future.

On Friday, Rivera was asked by Fox Sports 1's Jay Glazer about the team's wide receiver group heading into the 2020 season. The head coach took that opportunity to rave about his second-year pass-catcher.

"Terry McLaurin's been a treat," Rivera said. "He's been a treat to get to know."

As a rookie in 2019, McLaurin was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise forgetful season for the Redskins. Then wideout finished with a team-high 919 receiving yards, just eight short of breaking Gary Clark's franchise rookie record. Additionally, his seven TD receptions accounted for nearly half of Washington's touchdowns in the passing game.

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Rivera told Glazer that McLaurin reminds the head coach of one of his former wideouts in Carolina: D.J. Moore.

"[McLaurin is] a guy that could be on the verge [of stardom], he really is," Rivera said. "He reminds me so much of a D.J. Moore that we had in Carolina. Just an outstanding young man."

Moore, the Panthers' first-round pick in 2018, had a promising rookie season, but truly emerged as one of the NFL's better wide receivers last season. Moore finished his breakout campaign in 2019 with 87 receptions for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns. The wideout's catch total was good for a top 15 finish, while only eight other receivers had more receiving yards than him last season.

Like McLaurin, Moore also played with three different starting quarterbacks in 2019. What both receivers were able to accomplish a year ago, given their respective quarterback situations, is nothing short of incredible.

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented all NFL teams from having offseason activities, but McLaurin has still found a way to build his connection with his quarterback Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin, along with a pair of other Redskins receivers -- Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon -- has worked out with Haskins multiple times this offseason, even as recently as this weekend.

"I've got to say, I like the wide receivers," Rivera said.

If Haskins can build off his strong finish to the 2019 season, McLaurin could have an even bigger second-year than Moore did and really establish himself as one of the rising stars in the league.

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There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

Ron Rivera's first free agency class with the Redskins consisted of just over a dozen players, many of which share this one specific trait: versatility.

On the offensive side of the ball, Washington added running back J.D. McKissic, who can both run in between the tackles and catch passes out of the backfield. Additionally, the team added a pair of offensive lineman, Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer, who both have experience playing multiple positions along the line. 

The trend of adding versatile players continued in the draft. The Redskins invested a third-round pick in RB/WR hybrid Antonio Gibson and followed that selection with fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles, who played both tackle spots at LSU. The Redskins used another Day 3 pick on Keith Ismael, who played all three interior offensive line spots at San Diego State.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was asked this week why the team emphasized versatility so much this offseason, and the 37-year-old's reply was simple.

"I think you want to be as unpredictable as possible," Turner told local media via Zoom this week. "You don’t want the defense to know what you’re going to do. I think you do that with balance and everything like that."

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While that sounds ideal, being unpredictable is hard to do. The offensive coordinator explained that keeping opposing defenses on their toes requires a lot more than just mixing up pass plays with rushing ones. 

"Balance is not just run and pass," he explained. "It’s getting all five – you have five eligible receivers on every play – getting all five of those guys. That to me is what true balance is, using all five of those guys in the run game or pass game. So, guys that are able to do different things, it gives you more options of how you can use them and more things that the defense has to defend."

Outside of wide receiver Terry McLaurin, plenty of Washington's offensive weapons remain unproven at the NFL level. However, there's still plenty of optimism in Redskins Park about the team's skill position depth.

The Redskins had a pair of rookie pass-catchers emerge towards the end of last season, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, and having another season alongside Dwayne Haskins should only help them. At running back, Adrian Peterson keeps chugging along, and if Derrius Guice can stay healthy, he has the chance to make a huge impact, too. 

Washington's offseason additions of McKissic, Gibson, and fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden, who the offensive coordinator specifically praised, all give Turner plenty of flexibility to be creative with the unit.

"We have guys that we feel like can fit those molds as far as just creatively getting the ball, not just like running back and receiver and we’re going to give a lot of people a chance and see how it shakes out," Turner said.

Too often last season, Washington's offense was extremely predictable, especially once interim head coach Bill Callahan took over. Callahan insisted on running the ball early and often; the Redskins ran the ball 58% of the time on first down, the sixth-highest rate in the league, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Many of these runs were unsuccessful, leaving Washington in plenty of third-and-long situations. Those down-and-distance situations are immensely hard to convert, but even more difficult with a rookie quarterback, which the Redskins had with Haskins last season.

There's only room for improvement for the Redskins offense as Turner enters his first season as the team's offensive coordinator. The unit averaged just 16.6 points per game a season ago, which ranked dead last in the NFL. Washington averaged just 274 yards of total offense per contest in 2019, good for 31st in the league, with only the Jets trailing them.

This season marks the first true offensive coordinator gig that Turner has had; he was promoted to the role in Carolina last December, ironically after Rivera was fired. With the Panthers, Turner had the luxury of running back Christian McCaffrey -- arguably the most versatile offensive player in the NFL -- to his disposal, as well as guys who can play multiple roles like Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore.

While the Redskins may not have a player like McCaffrey, the offensive coordinator has a plan for how he envisions Washington's offense to succeed in 2020, and it all starts with having players who can do multiple things.

"Versatility is so important because it’s uncertainty for the other side of the ball," Turner said.

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